There it stands,
overlooking the swollen river
and sun-drenched field,
a straight-spined black maple
with well-spaced branches.
It beckons with leafy hands
Come and be my guest.

The nearest branch sprouts beyond your reach,
so wrap your arms around the rain-slicked trunk
and try to shinny up,
but the rough mark plows into your chest.
The dampness peels your hands
right off the slippery cork.

But when I was a child
I could do this;
I conquered sterner trees;
planted my flag atop dizzier summits.
Take a step back.
See? That branch angles down its arm
at some little distance from the trunk
to lend a hand.

Pause a minute.
Let your panting subside.
Then, taking that hand,
reel yourself along the bough
like a cable car
until you reach the trunk.
Grunt and pull yourself astride.
From there it’s easy.

Let the exertion waken you;
the panting is glorious;
let the sweat and dirt cleanse you.
With a downward look,
the earth sprawls away,
plunging you upward,
oxygenating your blood with tiny gasps of innocence.

Perch high amid the green stratosphere of peace
beyond the reach of mosquitoes and Pandora’s curse
like a little child
climbed into the lap of Christ.

But must I descend again?
Must I return my heels to the groveling ground?
Here the nuthatch nods;
here innocence rests.
But this rest is not forever,
and when you stand on earth once more,
examine your scrapes with a smile:
for until you heal, you bear on your skin
the mark of serenity,
the woodcut of grace.
Go climb a tree.


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Daniel Lowry hails from West Virginia, where he enjoys quiet things such as books, the woods, and the night.

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